Former St. Cloud River Bats catcher Mitch Garver is getting a shot at full-time duty with the Twins this season after an injury to starting catcher Jason Castro. Garver played for the River Bats in 2010 and 2011 before the organization became the Rox in 2012.

"I never would have pictured myself being here (in MLB)," Garver said. "I never wanted to be a big-league baseball player, because I didn't think it was possible."

Garver arrived in St. Cloud in 2010 after his freshman season with New Mexico. He came to  Minnesota knowing very little about the Northwoods League.

"I knew nothing about the league, but I asked a few guys around me and they told me it was a fun league," Garver said. "Gosh, I played with some great people that first year, a lot of really great players…some of which I still talk to today."

Garver was one of four players from that River Bats team to make it all the way to the majors, along with Austin Barnes, Matt Reynolds and Jason Wheeler.

Courtesy: St. Cloud Rox
Courtesy: St. Cloud Rox

The Northwoods League experience proved to be invaluable to Garver, who received 128 at-bats with the Bats in 2010 and posted a .227 batting average. He would go on to hit .290 with the Bats in 2011 with four home runs and 21 runs batted in.

"I didn't get to play much my first year of college, and when I went to St. Cloud I got to play every other day or every third day," Garver said. "Gosh, what a great learning experience that was for me."

Along with the challenge of playing a packed schedule of games in a short amount of time, Garver had to adjust to life in a new city with a host family he had never met. Fortunately, he was staying with an experienced host family in Don and Linda Haus.

"It was quite a comfort zone adjustment for a while, being away from my family for an extended amount of time," Garver said. "I was living with strangers, basically, that took me into their home and made me one of their own."

"I had to come out of my shell, learn a few things about myself and really just roll with it because it was all going to be fun at that point," Garver said.

“He kind of a keep to himself kind of guy, and those don’t last very long with me because we pester the s--- out of them,” Don Haus said. “We made sure that we include them in everything that we do around the house.”

Haus says that they have been hosting Northwoods League players for 19 seasons, and that he always gets a sense of pride seeing the players succeed down the road.

“As a host family, your dream is for them to make it,” Haus said. “When we first saw him standing at the plate with a Twins jersey on, there was a sense of accomplishment in a way.”

"Pride not only for him, but for us, because we know we were a part of it in a way," Haus said.

Future Rox manager and current Director of Baseball Operations Augie Rodriguez was the team’s pitching coach in 2011, Garver’s second season with the Bats.

“Augie was good, we had a good staff,” Garver said. “He always worked with the kids really well and he always tried to spread a good message with everybody.”

Garver said he still stays in contact with Rodriguez and is hoping to connect with him at some point this summer. Rodriguez remembers Garver as an impact player on both sides of the ball.

“Mitchell was a respectful young man that showed up to the baseball field ready to work and study his opponents,” Rodriguez said. “He was the best game caller, pitch blocker and had quick feet.”

Offensively, Rodriguez says that he was always fun to watch in the batter’s box because the sound the bat made was noticeably loud. He also adds that he is not surprised to see Garver in the big leagues.

“When you watched him play, you knew he had the baseball tools necessary to make it to the Major Leagues,” Rodriguez said.

So what does Garver miss most about St. Cloud?

“The quarry,” Garver said without hesitation. “We went to the quarry a lot, and I loved that, but gosh, so many good memories.”